A roguelike Arabian Nights adventure from the former BioShock developers at Uppercut Games, City of Brass finds itself on the receiving end of our latest Quickie.
That sounds great, but what about the systems surrounding combat?
Exploring involves some light platforming and plenty of pilfering, as you grab artefacts used to purchase upgrades and services that’ll (hopefully) help you eke closer to making it out of the titular city alive. Initially there’s something slightly cumbersome about the controls on console, especially in comparison to the far more fluid PC version (which also looks noticeably sharper than even the Xbox One X build), but some options menu tinkering and time to adjust should set you straight.
Is it something you’d recommend, then?
Provided you’re willing to spend a little time grappling with those initial control gripes on console, absolutely. City of Brass has an opulent aesthetic and satisfying mechanics that’ll keep you coming back, always met with an engaging new challenge to surmount.
Spiritual successor to PC cult classic The Ship, Murderous Pursuits is the latest sneaky multiplayer murderthon from developer Blazing Griffin, and the latest game to receive our quick look treatment.
How’s the presentation? Do I need a monster PC to run it?
Nope, it runs at a solid 60 FPS with full graphics settings on a GTX 1060 and looks great. The eight playable characters - caricatures, really - are diverse and immediately likeable, while minimalistic menus complement more detailed and bustling in-game environments.
It’s all tied together by narration from Mr. X and a tiptoeing soundtrack that’s charmingly true to the period and genre.
So, would you recommend a stint as Mr. X’s personal hitman?
If Murderous Pursuits sounds intriguing to you, then definitely. Its laser-focused design delivers moreish and tactical fun, but only for as long as the central conceit remains exciting to you. Multiple hours in, win or lose, each match still ends with a smile.
Raiders of the Broken Planet's outlandish design has had us enthralled since the episodic adventure began late last year, so naturally we jumped at the opportunity to interview the team behind it. Game Director and MercurySteam co-owner, Enric Álvarez (@Enric_Alvarez), answered the call and joined us to discuss the game's inspirations, community, future and much more!
With a successful track record for handling legendary third-party properties (Castlevania, Metroid), what prompted MercurySteam to strike out on an independent project?
We are immensely proud of the games we have created for both Konami and Nintendo (you could say MercurySteam is the only true Metroidvania studio!), but Raiders of the Broken Planet is a passion project, and those kinds of projects demand nothing less than total creative freedom in order to keep their essence intact. Working with publishers in the past has made us better game developers, and we are now putting that expertise to use in Raiders of the Broken Planet.
"We are immensely proud of the games we have created for both Konami and Nintendo, but Raiders of the Broken Planet is a passion project, and those kinds of projects demand nothing less than total creative freedom..."
This is the team’s first independent venture - one with a large budget (relatively speaking) and plenty of eccentricities - do you feel like you're taking a bit of a risk?
Risk is like fear: Most people in the industry want to move away from it and that is a perfectly reasonable action to take. However, can you imagine, Indiana Jones running from danger instead of facing it? What a boring movie Raiders [of the Lost Ark] would have been! Maybe the first - and right - question to answer is how confident are you in your own ideas and how capable do you think you are in making those ideas happen. Depending on your honest answer to those questions, then you can properly judge the real risk you are entering into… We felt confident that we could make something exceptional that people would be interested in, despite the risks.
Whilst the team have been active in optimising the game for storefronts (rebranding the free starter campaign, releasing bundles), they’ve been even more committed to in-game updates. How important is it for Raiders to keep evolving over time?
It’s not only important - it’s essential. Raiders of the Broken Planet is an ongoing game, an evolving project. In order to keep the community engaged, you need to update the game regularly. That not only involves launching new campaigns, characters, weapons and skins on a regular basis, but also adjusting the game to your community’s tastes, constantly tweaking and rebalancing characters and missions as they get affected by the new content we add to Raiders of the Broken Planet.
As Raiders’ continued support has illustrated, you take feedback from the community very seriously. Just how important are players and critics in shaping a game under continued development?
Community feedback is the base of the game’s evolution. The best part of the radical redesign that accompanied the third campaign’s launch was a direct answer to the fans’ feedback, potentiating what they liked and getting rid of what they didn’t. We are in contact with players every day, interacting with them on Twitter, Facebook, the official forums or in Discord, and the advice they offer is absolutely brilliant. We can say that Raiders of the Broken Planet is a better game now thanks to them.
Enric discusses the changes implemented in Raiders of the Broken Planet's recent redesign, which you can read our thoughts on here.
Microtransactions are currently a hot-button issue within the industry; from an independent developer’s perspective, just how much has their implementation impacted the project? For example, could the ticket system (which allows players to join friends on premium missions they haven’t purchased) exist in their absence?
Microtransactions are part of most videogames nowadays. We have included them mainly to acquire cosmetic character skins that don’t affect the player’s performance in the game. But our business model is based on offering premium content for a very reasonable price – 9.99€/£/$ per campaign. We also gave away a sizeable part of the game for free, with the Eternal Soldier campaign, as well as introducing the ticket system and the Mission of the Week to allow them to invite friends to give those free to play gamers more freedom and options to explore the Raiders of the Broken Planet world and decide if they want to invest more on it.
With recent changes to the game’s ecosystem, namely halving the cost of every character, has that changed at all?
The introduction of the new progression system has been incredibly well received by the community. Characters are now unlocked as part of said progression, depending on the player’s level. That sets goals for the player to plan their advance through the game, always having something new to achieve. Halving the in-game currency cost of every character was also something our community demanded, and we happily obliged.
How do you feel the audience response towards Raiders has changed over the nearly seven months since it first launched?
Raiders of the Broken Planet has a really strong, committed and proactive core of fans who have been involved with the game since the early beta process. They have seen the game evolve since we launched in September 2017 and kept on playing even if they didn’t agree with all the design decisions that we took. Now, with Hades Betrayal’s launch and the new redesign, they feel that their opinions are being heard, and that we take these very seriously when deciding our next moves and how we’ll take the game forward. Raiders of the Broken Planet is now their game as much as it is ours.
"[Fans] feel that their opinions are being heard, and that we take these very seriously when deciding our next moves... Raiders of the Broken Planet is now their game as much as it is ours."
Can you give us a taster of what to expect from Council Apocalypse, the fourth and final premium campaign in the current Raiders season?
Council Apocalypse will be the final campaign of Raiders of the Broken Planet's first season. Harec and his band of Raiders will be pitted against the Fifth Council, the most calculating and technologically advanced of all the factions fighting for the control of the Broken Planet. As it happened with the previous campaigns, there will be a new Raider to recruit from that faction, Valeria. She will be vital to put an end to the Council’s insidious plans.
Similarly, can you offer any kind of hint as to what to expect after Council Apocalypse? Post-campaign cutscenes have offered some tantalising glimpses into the Broken Planet’s past - could we be in for a prequel season?
Once the players complete Council Apocalypse, the whole picture of the post-credits sequence will be revealed. Is it just an echo of the distant past, or does it have something to do with the future of the Broken Planet? Only time will tell!
Are there more Antagonists or Raiders on the dev team, and who’s the most popular character for each role?
There are an alarmingly high number of Antagonists in the studio. I guess we all like to vent off steam by playing the bad guys and ruining each other’s games! Until recently, Lycus was the character of choice for playing the Antagonist, but Doldren seems to be very popular these days - his special ability to sneak behind his enemies’ backs is just perfect for that role!
Thanks to MercurySteam's José Herráez, and, of course, Enric Álvarez for taking the time to answer our questions!
Keep an eye out for our upcoming Hades Betrayal let's play, and be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win one of five Raiders of the Broken Planet - Ultimate Edition PS4 keys by clicking the banner below. The Ultimate Edition bundles all of the episodic shooter’s standalone campaigns alongside five exclusive skins, with now being the perfect opportunity to get involved, as the package is set to exit digital storefronts stage left next week.
Hades Betrayal, the penultimate premium campaign in Raiders of the Broken Planet’s debut season, was accompanied by a stellar free update that overhauled the game’s systems and pretty much fixed all of the wider issues we’ve raised in our past coverage. Whilst the patch is an overwhelming success, Hades Betrayal is a strong outing that wraps up with a bit of a whimper.
New recruit Ayana is a characteristically bizarre prospect within the Raiders universe - a tribal future pirate with an accent that flits between Jamaican, Indian, German & Welsh.
Having inadvertently recruited the red-headed teen, he’ll soon be added to the roster as a universally purchasable playable character, whereas Ayana is a free exclusive to Hades Betrayal owners.
Breaking from established convention, a boss battle rounds out mission number three. Taking place in a gorgeous interior, you’ll aim to draw a big ol’ chainsaw-wielding mech towards explosive plant life, utilising the bulging buds to damage its armour and expose the vulnerable pilot within. It’s a hugely chaotic encounter, true to Raiders form, but one we ultimately could’ve done without.
Hades Betrayal’s culminating confrontation proceeds to shoulder the blame for this; what’s typically a spot reserved for grossly malformed behemoth bosses that beg for you to put them out of their misery, is instead occupied by another mech requiring similar tactics to take down. Once again, there’s nothing technically wrong with the fight, but it would’ve been so much more effective to see Hades Division’s Gundam-style tincan descend without it ringing incredibly familiar. While the shoe fits - General Krausher is exactly the kind of character that’d send a series of giant robots to do his bidding - it just isn’t worthwhile to end on such a comparative creative low.
Samey bosses set aside, Hades Betrayal does boast good mission variety and a heightened sense of scale to build towards Council Apocalypse, which is set to close out the current season of content at some point soon. As ever - in fact, especially so following the update - what’s here is highly revisitable thanks to digestible mission lengths, a sustained level of challenge, the ability to replay as an Antagonist, and now, to earn greater rewards than ever before.
Couple that with access to the brilliant Ayana Kwena and plenty of kooky, character-driven cutscenes to build upon the burgeoning lore, and Hades Betrayal is another standalone campaign that Raiders of the Broken Planet fans won’t want to miss.
If you fancy trying Hades Betrayal for yourself, free of charge, why not enter our giveaway for a chance to win one of two PS4 keys? Click the banner below for details on how to enter.
Bypassing the troublesome Shadwell Overground stairs via the elevator once again proved a dream, especially the smell, but the lack of fish in the ornamental canal was of great concern to me. Where had they gone? Why? And could they ever truly exist in those two-inch deep waters? So many great questions, but only one certainty: I was back at Tobacco Dock for EGX Rezzed 2018.
This year’s show had so many playable games that even two days worth of attendance was insufficient to see them all.
First up was Lake Ridden, a first-person puzzle-adventure set inside the guts of a gloomy lake, largely devoid of water. The puzzles are cryptic enough, the setting has a creepy edge, and the story is intriguing. Let’s see how it develops.
I followed-on with a selection of games from cracking London-based publisher Chucklefish. I’ve mentioned Wargroove a few times on the site - most notably as one of my most anticipated games of 2018 - and I have no qualms in reiterating that this is going to be essential gaming. They also had “Stealthvania” game The Siege and the Sandfox on show, as well as Pathway, another fabulous strategy game. All three titles are a great showcase of Chucklefish’s brilliant expanding roster.
Curve Digital - another splendid publisher - had a few games on show ‘ere too. I thoroughly enjoyed the arcade-stylings and twin-stick fun of Rogue Aces, cartoony aircraft-sim Bomber Crew, and strategic RPG For The King. The former is available now on Switch and PlayStation platforms (that’s PS4 and Vita), whilst the middler and latter are currently available on Steam.
My time in the Indie Room (above-ground branch) came to a close with two biggies: Disco Elysium and Phoenix Point.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty; be they booze, smoking, drugs, memory and/or mental health related. Tasked with solving a murder, this unique isometric police RPG gives the player a staggering amount of choices, featuring multiple skill sets (these affect your character’s perception of the world, and how he interacts with people), a gorgeously gritty hand-painted art style, and ever so much replayability. I can’t help but be excited!
Phoenix Point is the latest strategy game from master of the genre Julian Gollop. In time-honoured fashion, you take control of a team of grunts armed with big guns, rippling muscles and cheesey dialogue as you tackle objectives and blast alien scum. Fans of all things XCOM can PARTY now.
What goes up must surely come down, so, like morning toothpaste finding its way to trouser leg, I stumbled downstairs to the Indie Room (basement branch). Just like its above-ground brethren, the basement room was chock fulla great games.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty, and I can’t help but be excited about this unique isometric police RPG!
PQube’s selections caught my eyes and ears first, which lead me to enjoy time with sinister text adventure Stay, 8-bit side-scrolling slasher Aggelos, and produce-focused karter All-Star Fruit Racing. They also had the wonderful Cat Quest on the go - if you haven’t already, go and check it out!
It was great to see Aperion Cyberstorm being enjoyed by many in its Switch incarnation, Hipster Cafe Simulator providing many laughs, and beautifully animated (and darkly funny) adventure game Unforeseen Incidents, all running side-by-side.
The highlight of the room was local multiplayer communicate-‘em-up Catastronauts. You and your associates are placed in charge of a spacecraft, tasked with blastin’ away other crews. Much like the genre-defining Overcooked, Catastronauts uses the rising panic of putting out fires, removing bombs and firing lasers to create real laughs. Look out for this one when it drops later in the year.
By now the bells were tolling, so off I toddled to the land of the well established: that’s right, it were time for PlayStation, Sega, Xbox and Nintendo.
PlayStation had a paltry amount of titles on show this year, but as if to paint quality over quantity, what was there was truly fabbo. Guacamelee 2 provides more hectic, Mexican rasslin’-infused fun, there was silliness aplenty in The Adventure Pals, and irresistibly cute graphics in The Swords of Ditto.
Gorgeous adventure Heaven’s Vault is what really stood out, though. Featured in my seven to look out for at Rezzed piece, HV surpassed my already high expectations of what the open-world point-and-click adventure would be. Taking control of archeologist Aliya, I interacted with helpful/humourless robot chum Six, investigated the ruins of a beautiful lost world, and attempted to translate lots of hieroglyphics. The alluring blend of 2D character art and 3D environments is a triumphant success, as was the slow-burn quality of the gameplay. One of my games of the show, for sure.
Microsoft’s ID@Xbox room was lacking in space (at least for corpulent Milky Bar men like myself), but did exhibit some superb games. Our esteemed Editor, Monsieur James Michael Parry, joined me for a blast at Metal Slug-like Huntdown - which is really good old-school fun - Terratech’s Minecraftian vehicular combat, and the joys of reigning over the proletariat in Kingdom: Two Crowns. The highlight here, however, was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person cooperative shooting. It was great fun, and even better when played in a group, as Jim lad will testify to.
The ID@Xbox highlight was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person co-op shooting. It was great fun, especially when played in a group.
Nintendo and Sega offered slim pickings this year, as they both showed games already available on other platforms. Mega Drive Classics will definitely be a day one pick up for myself, but I don’t see why they needed to bring it; the just-announced Shenmue re-releases would’ve made more sense. Nintendo’s appeal rested solely on Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. We’re pleased to announce that it’s shaping up to be another Suda 51 classic, the auteur's crazy combat, retina-destroying colours and self-aware dialogue all being intact.
Are you still with me, comrades? If so, let’s travel into the dark heart of the Unreal Engine Showcase to sample Another Sight, Metamorphosis, Space Cows, some fishing, and the brilliant Lost Ember.
Another Sight puts you in the dual-role of blind gal and nimble cat, as you explore Victorian-era underground London - sewers, trains, et al. Space Cows carries the same charm as clumsy controllers Octodad and Manuel Samuel, as you traverse a colourful world in search of milk and cows. It was hilarious.
Metamorphosis casts thee as a man trapped in the body of a spider: Why are you here? What are those men doing to your friend? How will you return to human form? The game's sneaking and scuttling was good fun, as was currently-available-on-Xbox-Game-Pass carp-botherer, Dovetail Fishing - maybe this is where the ornamental canal’s dorsal-equipped water breathers had vanished to?
Lost Ember was the real winner here though, with its attractive visuals and possessing gameplay mechanic. You play a wolf, who, with the help of a spirit mate, can possess other animals to help traverse a natural world free of humans. I got tinges of Journey and Abzu playing the game, but there’s definitely plenty of originality lurking in Lost Ember’s characters and story. Once polished, this has serious potential.
Coatsink and Wired Productions had some quality stuff up their sleeves this year too, with games that really honed in on fun.
Wired had gravity-defying speedster Grip on show, as well as the glorious return of Shaq-Fu. Shaq was a personal favourite, featuring Saber Interactive’s pleasing NBA Playgrounds art style and side-scrolling, button-mashing bouts straight outta the 90s. Add to that rich colour comic book cutscenes with hilarious writing and voice over, and I cannae wait for this one.
The hockey/football/Micro Machines mash-up that is Coatsink’s ClusterPuck 99 thoroughly entertained myself and herr-Editor, as we managed to win both of our games against fellow attendees. Coatsink’s highlight, however, was the fabulous Phogs, a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
Jam and I played in co-op mode, using the same controller to immensely increase the hilarity of the experience. You each control one end of a double-ended dog, aiming to progress through some exquisite locales via the medium of hungry giant worms. The game had a real Nintendo-at-its-most-joyous feel to it, and trust us when we say, this is going to be the game to play at parties.
The fabulous Phogs is a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
My voyage around Rezzed finished at the glorious Leftfield Collection this year, a place that truly encapsulates the spirit of the show, in one’s humble opinion. The feeling of community was present as soon as I entered, gazing upon hand-drawn posters above each title, friendly faces from all over the world, and some superb games.
Leftfield was a true exhibition of the arts; from design, to visual presentation, to music, it all came together as my personal combined star of the show. A cop-out maybe, but there’s no doubting the reality: Leftfield displayed the true nature of gaming, and maybe even life (if you’ll forgive my pretension) - personal, meaningful, fun. It’s for that reason you can expect to see an article focused squarely on the great Leftfield games on show, which really deserve the spotlight.
With that, I downed my last coffee of the weekend, checked one last time for fish, and disappeared into the night. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, farvel - see ya next year, Rezzed!
For plenty more EGX Rezzed 2018 coverage, stay tuned to Pass the Controller.
Raiders of the Broken Planet is a strange egg, but in a good way, with its oddball cast and mechanics making it all the more endearing. That said, the episodic sci-fi shooter has been held back by a few core issues as a result; from endless matchmaking instances and overly expensive character unlocks, to a lack of concrete progression and little in the way of encouragement to engage with its asymmetrical multiplayer. Now, courtesy of a sizeable free update built on community feedback, each and every one of these problems has been admirably addressed.
Raiders has been held back by a few core issues, but now, courtesy of a sizeable free update, each and every one has been admirably addressed.
Whilst those specific rewards are much the same as before (currencies and weapon blueprints), there’s now a more conventional progression system on top. You’ll earn experience points proportional to your performance, with each gained rank bestowing unlocks and passive gameplay boons that apply across all characters.
It’s a much needed motivator and a leap in the right direction when it comes to Raiders’ ensured longevity, but considering the fact everyone starts at ground zero, some veterans may take issue with the implementation. Everything that’s previously been bought remains readily available, but say you were close to acquiring a specific character with in-game funds, you may now need to reach a heady level just to qualify for the purchase. Considering all character unlock costs have been slashed in half, however, that should be a relatively easy pill to swallow.
Levelling can be accelerated with the purchase of experience multipliers - though returning players should find that they already have a few in stock, free of charge - and also by splitting your time between the roles of Raider and Antagonist in an effort to maintain a 50/50 balance in the new Aequilibrium War. As your assigned group edge closer towards achieving equilibrium, all of its members will receive a greater experience boost, encouraging the playerbase to engage with both sides of Raiders’ criminally underutilised asymmetric multiplayer. Having also brought the rewards for playing as a solo Antagonist into line with those offered to co-op Raiders, being the bad guy is now the deviously attractive prospect it should have been from the start.
The new progression system is a much needed motivator and a leap in the right direction when it comes to Raiders’ ensured longevity.
All of these changes are squarely aimed at making the game more accessible, without compromising the level of challenge that attracted players in the first place. One final addition of note, the Forge, further attains that goal by allowing the customisation of firearms to fit different play styles, provided you first get your hands on an advanced blueprint.
MercurySteam have likened pre-patch Raiders of the Broken Planet to an early access version of the game, which is a strong way to put it, but they‘ve most certainly eclipsed their initial offering. It’s very easy to imagine ways in which AAA publishers might’ve squeezed money out of their following for such an overhaul, or just kept it back for a sequel, but that isn’t this Spanish studio’s style. With a “dizzying” rate of updates promised moving forward, now’s certainly an exciting time to be a part of the growing Raiders community.
Raiders’ biggest update yet accompanied the release of its latest premium campaign, Hades Betrayal, which we’ll be sharing our thoughts on very soon. Until then, if you’re eager to give the game a try, you can click the banner below for a chance to win free access to Hades Betrayal on PS4!
Infinite State Games’ light-hearted take on aerial warfare, Rogue Aces, landed on PS4, Vita and Switch this week and is the latest to be given a quick one.
If you’re specifically looking for some mindless plane-based carnage, and nothing more, then Rogue Aces just about fits the bill.
Despite the drawbacks, would you recommend it?
If you’re specifically looking for some mindless plane-based carnage, and nothing more, then Rogue Aces just about fits the bill. If you’re willing to spend a touch more than Rogue Aces’ £9.99/€12.99/$12.99 asking price and have access to an Xbox One or PC, however, we’d have to say Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China offers far superior aerial arcade action.
This’ll be our third year at EGX’s fantastic indie game showcase, Rezzed. Set inside London’s Tobacco Dock, those lucky enough to be going - attendance swells every year - have literally hundreds of games to try out, covering every genre imaginable. The big boys will be there too, so those of you with a love for all things Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox have no excuse, either. With this in mind, here are 7 games we’ll be homing in on come Friday.
Another adventure featuring an alluring audio-visual assault, Lost Ember casts you as a wolf with the power to inhabit other animals, in a natural world shorn of mankind. Discover the ruins of long lost civilizations through the wings of a bird, the fins of a fish or the snout of the wolf himself. Check out the trailer for Lost Ember’s Abzu/Journey influenced world above, and get excited.
Set in a world covered in water - hello Mr Costner, how have you been? - Above puts the player in the cockpit of dinky plane, in this charming looking action adventure. Build, upgrade and modify your craft, fight against gargantuan sea monsters and sky pirates, and follow your character’s journey to hunt down a long lost sibling.
An open-world adventure the likes of which we rarely see, Heaven’s Vault puts you in the shoes of archaeologist Aliya Elasra, as you attempt to uncover the secrets of a civilization's past. Sumptuous hand drawn 2D art, hieroglyphic translation and absorbing characters blend to create yet another attractive adventure at this year’s show.
Double Kick Heroes
Labelled as a rhythm-metal-shooter by the developers, Double Kick Heroes has cooked those three ingredients up in to a sweet gaming jambalaya. The action scrolls from left-to-right, as you and your band of musical metal madmen crash drums and shred guitars; time it right and bullets will fly at the bastards chasing you. Check out our preview for more on DKH.
Take a B-movie narrative, arcade-style gameplay, limited sight and what do you get? Blind Drive, that’s what. Like many of the other gems on this list, the game will be playable in the Left Field collection at the show, a place where it seems we’ll be spending most of our time! Keep tabs on our coverage over the weekend to see if dev Lo-Fi People’s intriguing idea equates to a grand game.
Are you attending EGX Rezzed? Are you a developer who’d like us to see their game? Let us know via the comments and social media, and look out for more coverage over the weekend.
Join us down in the funk-bunker as we get vigorous, personal and brief with German developer Phantom 8’s new third-person story-driven action game, Past Cure.
Third-person action, you say?
For the most part, yes, though Phantom 8 do also shoehorn in some puzzle solving and survival horror elements as you play out sequences both in reality and in Ian’s dreamworld. The bad news is that everything fails: the third-person shooting is naff, the puzzling is as dull as an Ed Sheeran tune, and the telekinesis/sanity bending mechanics are just utter dross. Every aspect is a rip-off of a better game, or a story element taken from a better film.
So it doesn't play well?
Honestly, it’s clunky, gutless and devoid of fun - voice acting notwithstanding, but we’ll get to that - quite the killer triple-threat. It’s obvious that Phantom 8’s intentions were well placed on paper, but the finished form falls well short of modern standards.
What about the presentation?
Once again, it’s plain to see the minimalist chic that Phantom 8 are aiming for, but it just looks flat. The frame rate doesn’t help matters, chugging along whether you’re in the thick of an action sequence or just walking around.
The real winner, however, is the wondrously bad voice acting. Every cast member appears to have attended The Kevin Costner Conservatory of Thespianism, spinning all manner of emotionally charged lines in a vacuum-bag of monotonous drivel - we do hope Phantom 8 didn’t pay them much...
Well, all sounds swell thus far… Anything else to be wary of?
Endless, vacuous cutscenes. Seriously, where a standard narrative-focused game allows the player to explore environments and discover information for themselves, Past Cure instead slams in a non-playable sidebar. Want to see Ian walk across a path for three seconds? You’ve got it!
Also: The main character’s name is Ian. Ian!
Hard to recommend, then?
At its current retail price of £24.99, it’s simply impossible to recommend. Whilst it’s almost commendable that Phantom 8 tried to mash all these different styles together, it just never works. If you’re a real sycophant, wait for the price to drop to around a fiver and dive on in.
Welcome down to another of our indie dev chinwags, this time with the fine folks at aPriori Digital. Based in Bristol, the team have just released their first game, an old-school shmup called Aperion Cyberstorm.
What inspired you and your team during the development stage?
The initial inspiration was the resurgence of couch co-op games like Towerfall. What we’ve found interesting is during development that style of games fell away for more online-based games, yet having recently showcased Aperion at EGX Rezzed, it seems they’re making a comeback!
"You have to be a little mad to work in the games industry, but I think it’s fair to say most games devs are a little mad anyway."
Can you tell us about your team at Apriori Digital?
The team are all graduates of the Game Technology degree at the University of the West of England, and it was through that course that we all met and decided to form a company. We’re all in the South West of England, with an office in Bristol. Aperion Cyberstorm is our first major title.
How difficult is it for indie developers in this current market? Can you take artistic risks and still make a profit? Are shows like Rezzed beneficial in helping you find an audience?
I would say it’s as difficult as it might be for indies in the music or book industries, in the sense that a lot of the time the thing you’ve poured your soul into isn’t going to bring in the big bucks. Sometimes you may find it won’t make anything. For a lot of indies, it’s a question of whether they would still make games if it wasn’t going to earn them enough to recoup costs. You have to be a little mad to work in the games industry, but I think it’s fair to say most games devs are a little mad anyway.
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
Network. Go to events, socials, anything where other game developers might be. But here’s the key part: stay in touch. Don’t go expecting to land a job or a contract straight away. A one-and-done email is more likely to end deleted than responded to. Follow up on the people you meet. We’ve contracted people for work that matches their skillset two years after we met them at events like Develop. We remember them because they would keep in touch every once in a while.
Understand that instant success isn’t a reality for 99% of developers. We spend a lot of our time working on contracts, and that’s the same for other devs. You’ll tend to find that the success stories are littered with a string of previous works that didn’t do as well. As an example, I’d recommend this talk by Jake Birkett about a decade of game making without a ‘hit’.
Where do you think the industry is heading - is VR the future in your opinion?
I wouldn’t say it’s the future, in the same way I wouldn’t say a particular platform or genre is the future. It’s another flavour of gaming, like augmented reality. VR’s working wonders for training in the engineering and medical fields, but I feel like it is still trying to find its legs in the gaming space. I hope it’s a success.
What game(s) have had the biggest effect on your life, and why?
Metal Gear Solid 2 – Holy bejebus, the back half of this game! I went in knowing nothing about it, so when the ‘Colonel’ went loopy it scared the crap out of me. I hadn't played the first MGS at the time, so the fourth wall breaks (like being told to turn the console off) left a massive mark on me. The game's almost prophetic at this point with its focus on the control of information context. Also, because Sons of Liberty in the UK came with a documentary on the making of the game, it was the first time I got to see how the sausage is made, as it were. At that point I knew what I wanted to make my career.
Eternal Darkness – Much like MGS2, Eternal Darkness’ biggest draw for me what the fourth wall breaks, using the game against the player by ‘deleting’ save data, loading the map upside down and dropping the volume on the TV. I loved traditional gameplay – I’m a sucker for the FPS genre – but challenging player expectation in the way that MGS2 and Eternal Darkness did is something I would love to explore.
Bloodborne - It was on sale, and people raved about it, so hey why not, right? Holy crap, this is one of the greatest games ever. The risk/reward gameplay and sheer speed of it is something I never knew I wanted. I wasn’t into the Souls games as much, but I’ve spent over 100 hours in Bloodborne, and I have no intention of stopping. Time will tell what kind of mark it has left.
What does the future hold for Aperion Cyberstorm & Apriori Digital?
Right now it’s coming to Steam and Wii U. As for other platforms, well, we’ll see. We have plans for our next title which is a bit of a departure in several ways from Aperion Cyberstorm, and we’d love the chance to bring it to its fullest potential. As a studio, we also work with other companies on their projects, whether games or other kinds of software, so if you’re looking for help on a project hit us up!
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
PlayStation 2. I mean, *that* library. I could spend most of my life playing through its back catalogue, then work my way through the PS1 library!
Thanks to aPriori Digital for taking the time to talk to us. Aperion Cyberstorm is available now on Steam, Nintendo Switch and Wii U. If you'd like to learn more about the game, check out our review.